Monday, March 22, 2010

Red Doesn't Mean Stop!

What do you do when you see red light?

STOP!

No red light here so don't STOP reading. Let me share with you a circumstance that you should go further and even more aggressive when you see red.

Once upon a time, you asked a hot sexy lady out for a candle light dinner. Your brought her to a restaurant with romantic atmosphere. Both of you sat face-to-face in a quiet and secluded corner of the restaurant that you pre-arranged with the manager. You then gave her the first surprise of the night, you magically popped out a bouquet of her favorite flowers right in front of her and said to her imitatively in Ronan Keating's voice, "pretty, Happy Birthday~"

She's shocked and surprised that she didn't know you got to know her birthday. She tried to control her excitement and shy away from looking into your eyes, "thank you," she responded with a red face . You sinisterly laughed in the heart that she could never escape from your WuChih Mountain 五指山 (grasp).

You then relaxed at the seat, ordered food and a bottle of wine. You cheered with her while waiting for the food. You suddenly had reaction on some part of your body when you saw her red face after wine and Angelina-like lips...


Holy sexy!! Your "another head" begun to turn evil.

The food was served. At the same time, you signaled to the waiter, a violin player walked to the table, greeted her with a birthday music and followed by soft romantic music. She looked even hotter and her face getting redder. Your blood just started to flood only to certain part of your body.

Dinner done. Everything went well with the plan. Walked out from the restaurant, hopped into your luxurious car and both of you were still enjoying the sweetest moments in the restaurant while driving. At the same time you were juggling, "where's next? Send her home or the hotel nearby?"

"Let's test her reaction," you turned your head to look at her and she gave you a shock...


When she changed her lipstick?! Why she changed it to red color?! Gosh! Why so red?! What message she wants to convey?! She is or ?? Or is it a red light?! STOP?!

Everything was under your grasp the whole night until now. You just worry a wrong guess would ruin all the efforts. Pleeeease, somebody pleeeeaaaasse help!

Well, if you have my number and call for advice, I will confidently tell you, "go to hotel NOW!"

I can even assure you, "if you fail, I chop mine!"

Wow! An expert's speaking here. Am I??

Let's unveil the secret...


Read the full article here at theSun via Gizmodo.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

VMLite on 1810TZ

I wrote a wordy post to talk about CPU with and without Intel VT-x or AMD-V. In the post I introduced VMLite that rescued my wallet for quite a big sum. In this post, let's save some key strokes and I will summarize by youtube the items you need to do to get VMLite running on your W7 machine, whether it's a VT-x enabled machine or not.

Before VMLite, it may be good to learn about Microsoft's Windows XP mode for comparison sake...


You get a feel on how Windows XP mode run on the machine, now let's see the same review for VMLite...


The obvious difference between both is the task bar. You don't see XP task bar in Windows XP mode when you launch the application installed in XP virtual machine. But you see one in VMLite XP mode. Hence, it eats up some pixels on your screen. One workaround is to enable "Auto hide task bar" in XP (not W7 task bar!!)...


The XP task bar is hidden. You can store it by pointing the cursor to right above W7 task bar.

The other difference is the drag and drop feature. In Windows XP mode, you can drag and drop from W7 host system to XP virtual machine. This is not available in VMLite. Some inconveniences but again here is the workaround...


The drives in W7 are automatically mapped to H drive in XP virtual machine. Open H drive will get you to C, D and whatever drives you have on your W7 machine so you can still copy-paste files beween W7 and XP.

One big weakness in current version of VMLite (3.1.2) is it does not support USB devices. So whatever USB hardware (thumb drive, dongle etc) you plug in will not be seen or detected by XP. Say if you plug in a USB thumb drive, the drive will not be listed in XP. But if you go to the H drive, you can still see and access it. But for USB dongle like USB 3G modem, it will not be visible in XPM until the next version release of VMLite.

There are few more differences but this post is to get your started with VMLite, so let's get to step 1, to install VMLite onto your W7 host machine...


Now step 2, to setup XPM or XP mode...


Over the video above you need to obtain XPM package via one of the options. The easiest way is to manually download the package from Microsoft site. Select the right system and language, then download the 500MB+ package to your machine. Make sure it's legitimate for you to download. Once downloaded, follow the video but select second option and browse to where the downloaded package is. It's strongly recommended to select a non-system drive (i.e. D drive) when VMLite ask where to save your XPM image files, the VHD file is >2GB in size. Then, sit back and wait. For my case, since I have been using an XP VHD image file for my Microsoft trainings, I imported the same image to be used as XPM.

One thing to note. If your machine is ultra thin notebook like 1810TZ, it comes with no CD/DVD/Bluray ROM. You will encounter an error during step 2...


It's not a serious error, you can ignore it if you want. To prevent the error, it's either you plug in an external ROM drive before you begin step 2 or install those daemon software to emulate a ROM drive. The ROM drive is used by VMLite to install VMLite Guest Additions software...


I don't find it useful though, I don't need that to close my XP application or XPM. Normally I just right click on VMLite icon and select close this window...


That works.

Once you have XPM setup, now is to install the applications that are only compatible with XP into the XPM virtual machine. Here's the how-to...


That's all! You're done. Yes, only a simple 1-2-3 step to get your XPM up and running in W7 with your legacy applications that are only XP-compatible.

If you curious about the performance, here's the idle state of 1810TZ...


When I start XPM...


And when XPM is actively running...


As expected, it eats up a lot of memory. But W7 is still running smooth and the XP application shows no lagging. My 1810TZ is still on stock 2GB, it will be a relief once I add on another 2GB stick.

Unlike Vista upgrade, upgrade to W7 is painless where you enjoy the latest W7 at the same time you don't lose your legacy XP. It may be a regret if you have bought a workstation with no support of VT-x but VMLite saves you from nightmares and helps you for a painless upgrade.

P/S: here is the how-to guide in PDF format.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How To Select Intel CPU

I got myself a new toy Acer 1810TZ not long ago. I listed my requirements making sure what I buy is what I want. Since this is a personal notebook, I did not list one work related requirement but this requirement did make me hold back a little to survey further, that is to be able to run an XP VPN application on Windows 7 to connect to my company network. Therefore, at least I had to get Windows 7 Professional for its Windows XP mode feature.

Typically buyer would ask the sales rep "can I install Windows 7 Professional on this CPU? Will it slow down?". I bet the answer would sort like "can, no problem. It won't slow down," for instance, if one was buying 1810TZ with SU4100 processor or similar range from other PC makers. Similarly, buyers usually ask "what is the CPU speed and cache" when buying a PC or notebook. As long as the processor is "speedy" enough (perhaps with big cache and RAM size too), buyers would think that is good to run any software and all features in W7 Pro would run flawlessly on 1810TZ in particular Windows XP mode. Sorry to say that's not true. That's the old norm on deciding the CPU's "speed", it is not applicable these days anymore. Intel complicates the CPU selection and may have confused buyers on so many variants of CPU they produce in the same family.

Look at this chart...


Or you can get the same full list from Intel website, the detailed technical spec for all the ULV CPU.

Confuse? The CPUs seem identical on speed, cache and whatnot. Never mind, let's use my case as example when I was deciding which CPU fit my requirements together with cost consideration, I nailed down to these 2 or on Intel website...


Since I said 1810TZ which is equipped with SU4100 processor cannot run Windows XP mode, then SU7300 with bigger 3MB "Smart" Cache must be the right CPU to run Windows XP mode, no? That might be the right answer in the past but that's not 100% correct today. Windows XP mode is also referred as Virtual PC or virtualization or virtual machine. In order to run XP mode on your machine, your workstation must be equipped with a CPU that features "Intel Virtualization Technology" or VT-x. Now look back the chart right above, the 8th row from the bottom. It must be a "YES" for you to run Windows XP mode. In summary, get yourself a Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate to run on a no1 CPU in today's market with highest RAM does not necessarily grant you passport to run Windows XP mode. The only key you must have is VT-x (or AMD-V for AMD CPUs) embedded in the CPU.

Sadly that Microsoft did not make this clear in the requirement page of XP mode or Virtual PC, it only lists 1GHz of 32 or 64-bit processor without any word on hardware virtualization. The catch is you have to go to Configure BIOS page to understand what is the key enabler to run XP mode. I wonder how many realize this only after the purchase.

Ok, so now what about me?! Am I caught with this hidden requirement where my 1810TZ is running on Windows 7 Home Premium with SU4100 CPU and I need XP mode? Almost! If I bought it the same time with my gang in January, I definitely would not know about this before purchase. Fortunately I did not make my impromptu purchase but took a little time to study above. Initially my target was SU7300 but most SU7300 was built onto 13 incher and above except Acer 1810T variant (without Z) which was not available in local market here.

But still why I bought 1810TZ? Was it because of above that made I settled with 1810TZ with SU4100?

Nope. It's because I found a software that mimics Windows XP mode. It may even run better than Microsoft's Windows XP mode which does not require me to upgrade from W7 Home Premium to Professional and most important, it does not require specific CPU with hardware virtualization technology! Meaning, it runs virtually on any CPU including the SU4100 in 1810TZ! It's called VMLite, check this out...


Not to forget, it's free! And I guess VMLite comes to savor for some people...


Imagine you made the wrong decision like above. You thought you were set to go with new notebooks loaded with W7 Pro and planned to use Windows XP mode for critical applications that only compatible with Windows XP but at the end you're thrown into a deep shit. Fear no more, VMLite is your answer to the boss. You need not write your resignation. Hehe... For my case, VMLite saved me quite some bucks: I don't need to buy a higher end notebook with VT-x CPU.

For reader who is hunting a new notebook or a purchaser working in SME, selecting higher GHz or cache size to match with the budget is not the only criteria. You have no choice but to learn a little technical to assure yourself making a right decision when selecting a CPU.

Good luck.

Friday, March 19, 2010

MSE Kills Energizer Hackers!

I think I mentioned in one of my gadget posts before that unifying my gadget chargers is part of my "gadgetry vision" so that I don't have to carry so many chargers when travel. Following that I have a requirement for all my new gadgets to comply, which is to be USB chargeable.

I bought a wireless mouse previously, I had a question on how am I going to charge the batteries if they drain out during trip? Ask no more, I got the answer right away...


A snapshot of Energizer DUO's website. This is the real charger I have...


A 2 hour charge energizes the wireless mouse for months before it needs another charge. It works perfectly~~ until I read this article at Engadget...


Uh oh! I recalled I have it installed on my XP machine. I then thought "Hmmm... What happen to Microsoft Security Essentials that I installed few months ago?!" I open up the MSE GUI, go to the History tab...


Phew! MSE is working in the background. I previously scheduled an update follow by scan everyday at 2am. But wait a second I asked myself, when was this alert first published? I then dug further to CERT website and found out the alert was notified on 2 Mar and published on 5 Mar. Okay, from my scan result above, 7 Mar 2am in GMT+8 is 6 Mar noon time in US. Meaning, MSE could only detect this vulnerability through virus definition dated 6 Mar or I could have missed the update on 5 Mar. So I browsed to Microsoft Protection Center, wanted to know when Microsoft or MSE respond to it...


Released on 6 Mar, meaning MSE could only work on a patch after CERT published the article (not notified date listed in the article). I compared the release date for other AV products like McAfee and Symantec, MSE was a day later than both companies above (5 Mar). Although it appears MSE lagged a day in response, but I think that might not be the case as Symantec updated its virus definition just 3 hours to 6 Mar (as per link above). IMHO, MSE a free AV does its job like other commercial AV products. But I'm a fussy bugger, I asked myself again, "hmmm... can MSE do preventive job not to allow the software to be installed?" I then ran a scan on the folder where I still kept the installer...


Good result! MSE detected it! No blame to MSE to miss this folder in past scans 'cause this folder isn't on any of my Windows machines but NAS. I don't know if other AV products would yield the same result, but at least MSE keeps a fussy user like me happy with it.

One lesson we can learn from here is not to simply install any non-essential software onto your workstation. Most of the times there is bundled software when you buy gadget and almost all the time the software is not required at all for the gadget to function and does not provide new features. I always install new software onto my XP machine which is used as lab machine to try out all new software before I decide to load it onto my production machine. Like this Energizer software, I find it useless...


It features a timer showing remaining charging time whereas the LED on the charger also provides the charging status...


Without the timer but do I really care how long charging time is since I know it's a 2-hour quick charger?

Last, thumbs up to MSE! Thumbs down to Energizer!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why Acer?!

Many know Acer could never come into my choice (due to bad experience) when I am on gadget shopping. So why this Acer 1810TZ ended up in my hands? Before I throw out all the excuses (yes, I had hard time justify to myself too), may be it's good to walk through my requirements for a new lappy as Wind's replacement:
  • portable and mobile
  • standard resolution of minimum 1024x768
  • not more than 12" screen
  • capable of playing back full HD media files such as H264, mkv, m2ts / AVCHD etc files.
  • from above, hence HDMI output must follow
  • Windows 7, minimum Home Premium and 64 bit. No Starter no Basic please!!
  • upgradeable RAM
  • minimum battery life of 4 hours
  • integrated 3G WWAN
  • HDD password

Let's go through one by one.

The Wind is still serving me well after 2 years. It is my companion even on day to day at work. So first criteria for the replacement is definitely as portable as Wind is. With previous post on physical comparison, this criteria has been passed without further question.

One weakness I have with Wind is its 3 cell battery with only less than 2 hours of juice. See the battery life of Acer 1810TZ...


I can easily achieve 6 to 7 hours of unplugged usage on 1810TZ, another passed.

On the other hand, the odd resolution of 1024x600 on any netbook is quite a pain when browsing, especially I read a lot of e-books for my new job these days. I blogged about it 2 years ago, let's see how the Outlook contact display in the new 1810TZ...


Unlike in Wind and most netbook with similar resolution, the contact form is properly displayed with 1366x768 resolution on 1810TZ. Another pass.

Another weakness of Wind is it is incapable to play high definition media files such as Bluray files I have, so I can't enjoy movies when travel. But 1810TZ with Intel GMA 4500MHD is capable of doing so without hiccup...


A Bluray m2ts / AVCHD file playing from the hard disk. There are tonnes of similar videos to show 1810TZ's capability in youtube, you can search for more.

Hard disk password is not a must but I would like to have it supported so I have the option to enable it if I feel the need...


Well, it's not a high secure feature but it may prevent me become another Edison, it's better than nothing and at least give some tough time to the stealing bugger to hack it.

With above, I shortlist few candidates...


You may already get some hint why Acer. If not, clearer answer...


Cost!

If you go through row by row to compare the spec, Acer offers the best price with best spec. For instance, HP dm1 has the same spec with only W7 Home Basic and priced at RM2199 or 2599 if I factor in an upgrade to W7 Professional 64bit. Same story to Dell and others if I were to factor in upgrade cost to bring them up to Acer's spec. If it were a hundred or two difference in the price, Acer could never land into me. But a huge difference of half a grand, could you resist the deal?

After the technical and cost comparison, I wasn't 100% convinced (by myself!) to get the Acer. My targeted time to shop for an upgrade was on 2Q10 around April, the time for 2010 PC Fair. It's also a good time which is a month after the Cebit 2010, so all new products could have landed here for PC Fair launching.

However, following through the tech news (here, here and here) gave me an impression that there is not much progress on notebook (or netbook) below 12 inch, seems that the PC makers focus more on the 13 incher and above for the new processors i3, i5 and i7. What's more if I found "sponsor" to donate a portion of the cost if I buy it during CNY? And "poisons" from the gang...



Total of 3, 2 blackies and 1 Olympic Edition. ;) (See our spending power!) 1 more is arriving at our shore soon ;) giving us total of 4 1810TZ!!

That's how I now pair with an Acer. Fortunately I start loving this new toy, hopefully it will never fail me throughout its tenure. If you have the same criteria like me, probably you would like 1810TZ too.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Partition Wizard on 1810TZ

I always wipe out the entire hard disk and fresh install my own OS whenever I get a new PC or notebook. This time round I plan to stick to the pre-installed OS, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit since I don't have a genuine copy of W7 DVD installer. One of the reasons I like to do so is because the PC makers always bundle many bloatware in the pre-installed OS which most of the times slow down the performance. Also, I would be able to learn the ins and outs of an OS by running through the installation and setting it up from scratch. On the other hand, pre-installed OS has its advantage, the PC makers typically include a recovery partition where users can restore to factory default setting by one press on the keyboard (ALT F10 for 1810TZ). Users have less headaches too with a guided step-by-step setup to get the machine up and running in minutes.

This time, I don't want to act smart and want to be a dumb user, so I walk through the setup like others...


Somehow I am just too arrogant. Hehe... I fail to stop myself to get into more technical when I see Acer did not slice the big 320GB hard disk into 2 partitions for system and data. This is always the first item in my checklist if I install my own copy of OS. Partitioning a hard disk does not really get easy with Vista and now W7 if the hard disk is big in size. Small size hard disk like the one in HP Mini that I blogged previously was OK with Windows Disk Management tool, I realized there is a ceiling size of how much size you could shrink using this tool which in turn prohibits me from repartitioning to the desired size. Fortunately I got to know a software called Partition Wizard...


And yes it's free! Plus, this software is darn simple to use even to dummies (to resize the hard disk). Don't have to worry about getting things wrong, everything can be undone before the actual change.

I plan to resize the one-big partition into 2, with 50GB for system (C drive) should be more than enough for W7 and the rest of the free space should be partitioned to data drive (D drive)...


Click on C drive, click on Move/Resize, and move the slider or type in the size, click OK. The change is not immediate that it allows review before actual change. Once comfortable, click Apply...


Since the resize is on the system partition, PW will ask for reboot and follow by this progress screen...


Wait a few minutes and PW will boot into W7 after it's done. Launch again PW, extra gray area can be seen now, that represents the free space which was freed early. Click Create to create new partition for D drive, the data drive. No snap shot this time as it's really a simple process or you can refer to PW's online help here. One tip, you can also combine this step into previous step.

Here's what I get...


Some may worry about losing the recovery partition that keeps the factory default operating system by repartition. No worries here. As long as you only resize the C drive and keep both hidden recovery partitions untouched, you are safe to go with the recovery function ALT F10 (during boot up) intact after repartition. I would recommend to execute Acer's eRecovery Management software to burn a copy of the OS into 3 DVDs before you do anything, just in case.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Acer 1810TZ vs. MSI Wind U100

After I revealed my new gadget, many ask me, "what are you going to do with your misai (beard)?" My misai??!! Why the new lappy has anything to do with my beard? It's actually referred to my lovely "MSI" Wind -.-|| It's not going away, it will become my mini desktop once I am fully comfortable with the new 1810TZ. Not only that, the new lappy must outperform my lovely Wind in some areas that make me feel worth buying. Before I move into the details, let's make some appearance comparison...


No doubt the 11.6" 1810TZ is bigger size than the 10.1" Wind. Both are glossy top but I find Wind is more "magnetic" to fingerprints than 1810TZ. Well, easy come easy go. It's easier to remove the prints from Wind than the 1810TZ too.

Let's go on top...




1810TZ is about 1 inch longer and wider than Wind. Not to bad for me, a good compromise if consider the bigger screen with 1366x768 resolution compare to 1024x600 on Wind. The netbook resolution really causes inconveniences on reading.

What about the thickness?


Wind is negligibly slightly thicker, you can't see the difference when view from side like photo above.

Turn upside down...


There is no user-accessible compartment on Wind. User needs to take out the entire chassis to upgrade hard disk or RAM. Also, noticeably Wind has more air vents.

Open up the lid...


The glossy screen on 1810TZ and matte on Wind. I have bad experience with glossy screen that causes glarry view. I have no issue with Wind when using outdoor under the sun, it has been proven few times with treasure hunt events. The other aspect that would affect the viewing pleasure is the tilt angle...


Wind has wider angle to tilt, the wider the better when you put the lappy on your lap.

The keyboard...


I am using 1810TZ to post this blog and from this limited experience, I prefer Wind's keyboard even it's smaller size. Quite a number of typing errors, perhaps I am used to small keyboard but I just feel awkward with such keyboard design on 1810TZ, it reduces the gap between keys and therefore the "tolerance" for typing error between adjacent keys is also reduced. As a result, you tend to have typo on adjacent key. I also hate the direction keys...


They are damn bloody small that many time I inadvertently press 2 keys in 1 stroke (i.e. left key and Pg Up, up key and Shift)! And I use these keys a lot to scroll pages, to quick jump in Word document and what not. I hope I can get used to it over time. Beside that, you can see the gap between keys from photo above, it's big enough to trap particles in it but it's too small to slip in a cotton bud to clean it! Bad design! I would rather to have the typical design like Wind or chiclet style like Mac.

I do welcome 2 good designs though, The first key from bottom left is a CTRL, not Fn key like Wind and the addition of Pg Up and Pg Dn keys.

What about the other input interface, the touchpad?


Here's the measurement for comparison sake (Wind follow by 1810TZ)...





Obviously 1810TZ is only wider (horizontal) but not longer (vertical) than Wind. It has multitouch feature, quite cool to pinch-zoom like iPhone. But I find the surface is not as smooth as Wind where the multitouch gesture some times is not responsive but the buttons are snappy, light click and responsive. Again, I may need more time to get used to it, or to fine tune the software later. Hopefully.

The other difference I like is the LED arrangement on 1810TZ...


Acer place the input related indicators at the top left for easy viewing and system related LEDs are bottom left, whereas Wind has all the indicators at the bottom right...


On Wind, I have to lift my right palm to check input related indicators i.e. is Caps Lock on etc occasionally.

Before I wrap up this post, let's compare the power brick...


This may not be a good comparison as I have replaced the Wind's power brick with AcBel. However, AcBel and Wind's stock brick are quite comparable in size where you can read from one of my posts. Acer did a good job to bundle a small and light power adapter for an ultra portable notebook. Like I mentioned previously, Acer did not do a perfect job designing the power cable...


The fat power cable with barcode is the one from 1810TZ and the other is AcBel. One thing I observe on 1810TZ brick is the flimsy cable on the other end just like the original brick from MSI...


I think I may want to get another AcBel for travel purpose before my next trip on March/April so I don't break it during travel again.

I reckon this is not a fair comparison to compare a better spec notebook with a 2 years old netbook. I write this up is to share on some of the areas (in hardware) you may want to consider if you plan to do an upgrade on your netbook/notebook like me, so you would know what to expect from the new one i.e. glossy vs matte screen etc etc beside those hardware spec inside the chassis i.e. CPU, RAM etc.

Enough hardware talk. Let's power it up to see if anything worth blogging...